Asjha Jones Swipes 12th Spot
Asjha Jones was added to the U.S. women’s Olympic basketball team Monday, making half the roster former UConn Huskies.
Jones joins Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Swin Cash, Maya Moore and Tina Charles, who were among the 11 players originally announced at the Final Four in Denver. All six helped the U.S. qualify for the Olympics by playing on the 2010 world championship team that won the gold medal.
“I would like to think that regardless of who the coach was, there’s a pretty good chance that every one of those players would be on this team. They earned it,” said U.S. coach Geno Auriemma, who has won seven national titles at Connecticut. “All the accolades that these players have gotten, they didn’t get those accolades because they played at UConn. They got those accolades because of what they’ve done in their pro careers, since they left Connecticut. That speaks to their talent and their level of being able to win at every level they’ve been at. They didn’t make the team because I’m the coach. They made the team because they deserve to be on the team.”
While most expected Baylor standout Brittney Griner to be the 12th member of the team, she took herself out of the mix, announcing Thursday she will not play, citing an unspecified family illness and her summer school schedule.
Joining the UConn contingent on the team is two-time Olympic gold medalist Tamika Catchings. Also returning for a second straight Olympics are Candace Parker, Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. Lindsay Whalen and Angel McCoughtry will be competing in the Olympics for the first time and trying to help the U.S. win a fifth straight gold medal.
Jones, who will be playing in her first Olympics, had a stellar season overseas, earning Euroleague Final Eight MVP honors.
“It was kind of like disbelief and shock,” Jones said. “I kind of put the Olympics out of my head because I didn’t think I was going to be on the team. First I was surprised that Carol (Callan, the team director) was even calling me. Then when I answered and she told me the news, I was very surprised, very shocked. I was really, really honored to be picked up.”
The U.S. team will train from May 11-13 in Seattle, playing an exhibition game against China and scrimmaging Japan. The Americans then won’t get together again until July 14, when the WNBA takes a monthlong break from its season for the Olympics.
The team will spend three days in Washington D.C., in July before heading to Manchester, England. The U.S. will then play in a tournament in Istanbul before returning to London at the start of the Olympics.
The Olympics begin on July 27 and the team is a huge favorite to win the gold. The Americans have won 33 straight Olympic matches.